07/05/2001 12:00AM

'Wanda' fit for Dance Smartly repeat


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - If you believe in deja vu, then Except for Wanda has to be your horse for Saturday's Dance Smartly at Woodbine.

A 6-year-old mare owned by George Richter and trained by Bruce Smither, Except for Wanda was a nose winner at 21-1 in last year's running of the Dance Smartly, fending off favored Only to You in a stirring finish.

When the two compete again here in Saturday's edition of the Grade 3 turf race for fillies and mares, Except for Wanda again figures to go off at double-digit odds with Only to You likely to reign as the public choice.

"She was injured toward the end of last summer," said Smither, who ran Except for Wanda only three times after last year's Dance Smartly, with her best race a second-place finish in the restricted Victoriana. "So I just pulled the plug on the filly," he said. "She's pretty much regrouped right now. She's back in good order."

Except for Wanda wintered on the farm here in Ontario, then came back to the track toward the end of March. Smither hoped to have the mare make her 2001 debut in the Carotene, a one-mile turf handicap here June 16, but the plan went awry.

"Unfortunately, she got sick," said the trainer. "She took a virus the day of entries. So I ended up running her 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt, just to get a race under her belt."

Except for Wanda finished third in that race, the June 23 Sweet Briar Too, beaten seven lengths by the talented Torrid Affair, but just

1 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up, the speedy El Prado Essence.

"She doesn't like the dirt, not really," said Smither. "It's not her cup of tea. But she's quite capable of running on dirt, which she showed. She's just a very talented individual."

Except for Wanda also made her seasonal bow on the main track last year, winning over seven furlongs under allowance conditions, but the Dance Smartly was her fourth start of that campaign.

Smither, however, is confident she will be ready for Saturday's

1 1/8-mile race.

"I liked the way she came out of her race, and I liked the way she breezed the other day," he said, referring to Except for Wanda's five-furlong work on the turf training track here on Sunday.

"She's an exceptional mare; she has lots of desire," he said. "On any given day, she can beat the best."

Attfield seeks third Shady Well

Sunday's feature, the $146,745 Shady Well Stakes, has attracted a field of seven Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Lining up for the 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well, from the rail out, will be: Happy to Be Home, Matter of Law, Western Resolve, La Loche, Ginger Gold, Tricksand, and Irish Line. Western Resolve and Tricksand are coupled.

Trainer Roger Attfield will be seeking his third Shady Well score, with Happy to Be Home, a Langfuhr filly who won first crack out for her owner and breeder, Bill Graham.

Attfield sent out Small Promises to win last year's Shady Well and he won the 1996 edition with Larkwhistle, who went on to be voted Canada's champion 2-year-old filly that year.

Trainer Glenn Magnusson, who saddled Maple Lake for an upset victory in the 1991 Shady Well, will be looking for a similar result with Irish Line, who is winless but has shown promise in two starts.

* Jockey Patrick Husbands has appealed a three-day suspension, which was to begin Friday, for "misuse of his whip" during the fourth race here June 30. The stewards ruled Husbands hit his mount, Exciting Story, causing a large welt under the horse's belly. Exciting Story finished fifth of sixth at odds of 1-2 in the race.